It’s that time of year again: Hazing Season, and millions of high school and college athletes are in the crosshairs of those who think that victimizing their younger teammates will bring them closer together.
This month, millions of young Americans are moving into college dorms for the first time. Even before classes start, they’ll be looking to fit into their new academic homes. Along with unprecedented freedom and opportunity will be the hazards of alcohol abuse and the allure of dangerous rituals that some think are merely rites of passage. These freshmen and transfer students can stop hazing in its tracks now by refusing to participate, and by demanding more and better of the groups they aspire to join. They can be part of a growing effort to create better ways for students to come together in socially productive, enjoyable and memorable ways. We’re trying to make it easier at Cornell. In August 2011, we directed leaders of fraternities and sororities to end pledging as we know it and develop in its place a system of recruitment and initiation that does not involve demeaning or dangerous acts. One of our students had died earlier that year after a fraternity event involving mock kidnapping and coerced drinking, but the problem of hazing had been bubbling under the surface for decades.